Differences Between CPA and CS

If you are confused between what to choose CPA vs. CS, here’s the remedy. Read the full article and decide for yourself which one suits you best. But before that, there are few things which you should consider.

  • First of all, the CPA and CS are entirely different courses, and their approaches are also very different. So, if you get overwhelmed about which path to choose, think what makes you fly – quantitative skills or qualitative aptitude? If we put in a better way, would it what would like better Mathematics or English? If you go for CPA, the main emphasis is on quantitative skills, whereas CS emphasizes soft and hard skills.
  • Choosing between CPA and CS often depends on what career goals you have for yourself. If you don’t want what to choose, think about what you want to be after 20 years down the line. Yes, you may have some vague idea. Write that down. Now try to match with the courses in hand. Which one do you think will help you get closer? CS or CPA? We know that it’s easier said than done. But take some time and reflect. If you think through and do research, you will find your way out.
  • Don’t decide the course based on ease and fees. Choose because you feel the system will add more value to you. Talk to people who have already done both of them and then decide on your own.

It isn’t easy to choose often. Thus, we have articulated all the details about CPA vs. CS for your perusal. Have a close look. Look at each of the courses. And then choose the one which suits you best.


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What is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA)?

If you complete CPA Exam, you will earn an extra 15% as an accountant compared to non-CPAs. It’s statistics given by AICPA. Let’s say you join a company without being a CPA. Now once you complete a year of service to the organization, you would get a hike of 15% in your salary. What if you get a walk before joining? Then do CPA.

  • CPA is a globally recognized course. Once you’re able to complete the time, you would be able to advise all domains of businesses, and you would be treated as an authority in the field of accounting for public enterprises. Pursing CPA will help you craft customizable solutions for all sorts of businesses and organizations.
  • Only 20% of accountants join public enterprises. So, you can think that if you want to do CPA, your market is narrower than all other accountants. But the thing is all public enterprises prefer CPA over other accountants as CPA can understand public accounting much better than any other accounting professional.

For more details, you can look at this- Nuts & Bolts of the CPA ExamCPA ExamA Certified Public Accountant (CPA) is a US state board-issued license to practice the accounting professionread more.

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What is Company Secretary (CS)?

CS is one of the most challenging courses in India. If you want to know how tough it is, judge it based on two things. Firstly, the candidates need to clear 3 levels, which includes 21 papers, to become CS qualified. Secondly, the pass rates for the papers under the Professional program held during June 2019 were in the range of 8% to 17%, which is indicative of the difficulty level of the exam. Having said that, if you’re ready to put your heart and soul into this course, you would be able to remove it. Just know that it’s not for the faint-hearted.

CPA vs. CS Infographics

Let’s understand the difference between these two streams with the help of this CPA vs. CS Infographics.


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Key differences

  • Exposure: If you’re considering between CPA and CS, of course, CPA has more global exposure than CS. CS is a certification that is professional and equips you with both quantitative and qualitative skills. Still, CPA has more demand in the market as it’s more recognized in the USA and other foreign countries, whereas CS is more beneficial in the Indian market.
  • Focus: The curriculum of CPA is much easier than CS. CS is a much more comprehensive course than CPA. CPA is all about accounting for public enterprises, whereas CS is all about company laws, drafting & presentation skills.
  • Fees: As CS is not as recognized as the CPA in terms of a global perspective, the costs of CS are much lesser than the CPA. The cost of the CS course varies in the range of $400 to $500, whereas the cost of the CPA course comes around $1,500. In fact, the cost of the study material (review course) can push the cost of the CPA qualification further up.
  • Pass percentage: As we have already mentioned, CS is much more challenging than a CPA in the curriculum. In preparation, naturally, the pass percentage of CS is much lesser than the CPA. The pass rate of CPA exams is an average of around 50%, whereas the pass rate of CS exams is significantly lower than the CPA exams.
  • Toughness: What would be easier to study? The CPA course is divided into 4 major papers, while the CS course is divided into 21 papers spread across 3 levels. If you want to pursue CS, think before you plunge in. You need to put in a lot of tenacity and hard work to get certified as CS.
  • Opportunities: If you complete the CPA, you can get a job as an accountant, and you can also take charge of auditing and taxation. Whereas, if you meet CS, your scope is much broader. You can work as a legal expert, corporate planner, strategic manager, chief advisor to the board of directors, and executive secretary to MD or CEO of any company.

CPA vs CS – Comparative Table

Organizing BodyThe exams are organized by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), USA.The exams are organized by the   Institute of Company Secretaries of India (ICSI), India
PatternThe course is divided into 4 parts
  • Financial Accounting & Reporting
  • Business Environment & Concepts
  • Audit & Attestation
  • Regulation
The course is divided into 3 levels
  • Foundation course
  • Executive program
  • Professional program

Duration of CourseThe candidates usually take around 1.5 years to complete all four assessment exams.The candidates usually take around 2 to 3 years to complete the course.
SyllabusThe syllabus covers the following topics
  • Financial Statement AccountsEntity Federal Taxation
  • Corporate Governance
  • Professional Responsibilities Ethics & General Principles
  • Individual Federal Taxation
  • Economic Concepts & Analysis
The syllabus covers the following topics
  • General & Commercial Laws
  • Company Law
  • Tax Laws
  • Economic Labour & Industrial Laws
  • Basic Economics & Business Environment
  • Banking & Insurance – Law & Practice
Exam FeesThe overall cost of the course comes to be around $1,500, which includes application fees, registration fees, exam fees, and license fees. The overall cost of the course comes to be in the range of $400 to $500. Further, commerce graduates and ICAI members and are eligible for certain exemptions.
JobsSome of the common profiles include
  • Public Accountant
  • Financial Analyst
  • Financial Advisor
  • Forensic Accountant
  • Internal Auditor
Some of the common profiles include
  • Strategic Manager
  • Corporate Planner
  • Chief Advisor to Board
  • Executive Secretary to MD/ CEO

DifficultyThe exams are moderately difficult as indicated by a historical pass rate of around 50%. During 2020, the pass rates for all assessments were in the range of 55% to 65%.The exams are quite difficult. During June 2019, the pass rates for the Professional program were in the range of 8% to 17%.
Exam DateIn 2021, the candidates can take the exams at any time of the year as CPA exams shifted to the Continuous Testing model.The upcoming exams for CS qualification will begin on 1st June 2021.

Why pursue CPA?

Passing CPA is much easier than any other course in the finance domain. If you compare with other classes, you would see that the pass percentage of CPA is much higher.

  • Once you complete CPA, you would be an expert in public accounting, auditing, and reporting. Thus you would be the most preferred accountant among all in public enterprises. It’s being said that only 20% of enterprises are available. By completing the CPA, your chances of getting placed in top-notch public enterprises will be higher.
  • As you complete CPA, you will be able to charge fees for your accounting services. Very few global accounting courses allow you the facility to blame for your assistance.

Why pursue CS?

Once you complete your CS, you will be considered an expert in company law, communication, and business management. These are chief tools required to run a business.

  • As CS is a much more challenging course, you will have less competition. It’s said that there’s no crowd along the extra mile. If you have passed CS, that means you’re a top-notch student.
  • Once you complete your CS, you will be able to advise the board of directors directly, and you will act as a secretary to the MD or CEO of companies. From this, you can understand the market value you will have and the responsibilities you need to carry through.


After going through the whole thing, now you may have some idea what to pick and what to let go of. But if you ask for advice, there won’t be a one-size-fits-all solution. If you want to make your mark as an accountant, choose CPA, or if you’re going to make your presence count and would like to advise the board of directors of the company, then go for CS.

Before choosing, think through, and give yourself enough time. Talk to people who have already crossed the path and ask for advice. But finally, make sure whatever you do should be a product of your conclusions.

This has been a guide to CPA vs. CS. Here we discuss the difference between CPA and CS along with infographics and a comparative table. You can learn more from the following articles –

Reader Interactions


  1. Harsh Dubey says

    Yes sir I am pursue CPA course

  2. Denzel Riley says

    Once again you came up with a great and unique content. Very good comparison between these two. Would you also like to explain me the differences between CFA and CPA. Which is better?

    • Dheeraj Vaidya says

      thanks Denzel! You can take a look at this article – CPA vs CFA to find the differences between CFA and CPA. Here you will find the differences in terms of exam details and requirements

  3. Cristiana Lennon says

    This is one of the best articles to read. With this information one can easily decide which one you must opt for. I liked this. Thanks for sharing. Is there any CPA exam guide to read?

  4. jayalakshmi murukurthi says

    good info sir..useful